Monday, August 6, 2012

Curiosity Lands on Mars

Sunday 2012.08.05 - This evening we followed the landing of Mars Science Laboratory via NASA TV streamed from our iPad to the television.  At the same time, we followed the flight simulation on the NASA web application "Eyes on the Solar System."   I was most impressed with this simulation.

Picture perfect landing after the "7 Minutes of Terror" descent.  Odyssey successfully rotated and relayed telemetry and initial images from Curiosity before it went over the horizon.  We were thrilled to follow the nail-biting event live.  After watching the nightly Olympic coverage, this was like watching the engineering community win a gold medal in world record time.    I struck not only by the mind-blowing space-flight engineering but also the communications network that brought all of this live to my living room ...  brilliant!

Here is the flight simulation of the sky crane doing its thing in the last seconds of descent.  This is what we watched as NASA controllers verbally relayed confirmation of powered flight and sky-crane deployment with the rover dangling twenty feet below.

This is the simulation of the rover on the ground

As the seven minutes of entry proceeded the atmosphere in the control room was charged.  Each new bit of telemetry information confirming that this complex choreography was coming off as planned.  Once a safe touch down was confirmed, the room erupted in to applause, hugs, and tears.  This video captures the moment as we saw it live.   I tried to get a shot of the celebration but everyone was jumping around too much.  I finally got a shot of controllers watching in awe the downloaded images.

Here is the first high-res shot of Curiosity's wheel. We took a picture of our television broadcasting the NASA TV feed so its pretty fuzzy.  The previous shot had been the 64x64 thumbnail of this same image

This next high-res shot on the left is of the shadow of Curiosity on the Mars surface.  The dust covers are still on the camera lens. These were later popped off.

What an experience.  I anxiously look forward to the science results MSL will generated over the next couple of years.  Way to go NASA!

Monday 2012.08.06 - This XKCD cartoon summarizes what today is going to be like

XKCD 2012.08.06 -

Today, NASA/JPL treated to some more detailed images. This first image is taken by the  High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.  It shows the rover descending on the parachute several minutes before touch-down.

This next image is from the left rear hazard camera looking back towards the rim of Gale Crater.

This image is from the front hazard camera, dust cover off now. The rover is facing Mount Sharp,  about 6km distant, its main destination.

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